As the spring semester comes to a close, maybe you’re feeling more anxious than usual. Whether you’re mentally preparing to graduate college, beginning the final project that you’ve put off for weeks now, or picking out dresses for a senior prom, the month of May can be bittersweet – the ending of a chapter for some and the beginning of a new one for others.
Sometimes, this anxiousness comes at relatively low levels and can be managed by participating in a number of stress-relieving activities that you typically enjoy doing. Speaking from personal experience, I think it’s safe to say that there’s no one-size-fits-all approach when it comes to mental health, though. In some cases, your tried and true coping mechanisms just might not be cutting it, and you find yourself wishing for more clarity and understanding of why you’re feeling the way that you do.
Perhaps seeing a therapist has been a fleeting thought of yours in the past, or is something that you’re currently considering. Either way, your hesitation isn’t as uncommon as you may think. In an article published on Psychology Today, Doctors Mary FitzGerald and Rebecca Landau-Millin explain nine different beliefs about therapy: ones that generally tend to keep people from seeking treatment. As the psychologists identify these beliefs, they also debunk the misconceptions driving each one. One of the points in the article emphasizes that just being on the fence about starting therapy doesn’t automatically indicate that it isn’t for you. It’s human instinct even, according to FitzGerald and Landau-Millin, to shy away from thoughts and feelings that are uncomfortable, further revealing why it’s so common in the first place to be hesitant about the process.
Before all else, know that it’s totally valid and okay to contemplate treatment. If you’re still unsure whether or not therapy can prove to be beneficial in your own life, here are five reasons why it may be worth a try.
- You don’t need a specific reason to start
The first thing to know is that your mental health doesn’t necessarily need to be in a “bad” state to start seeing a therapist. In fact, you don’t need to have a single reason or have experienced a number of triggering events to qualify for therapy.
While searching for some of the common reasons that people seek out professional help, I stumbled upon a blog post titled “Who Doesn’t Need Therapy?” and was surprised by the bluntness in clinical psychologist Dr. Ryan Howes’ response: to him, it was simple; everyone’s life can be enriched by going to therapy.
For me personally, I was introduced to therapy after my parents suggested that it would allow me to better process their divorce. At eight years old, I wasn’t sure what to expect, but went into it blindly with the purpose of wanting to improve the sadness and confusion I felt in that specific area of my life.
Fast forward to more than ten years later as a junior in college, I couldn’t put my finger on what was driving my anxious behavior this time around. Other than the normal stresses of schoolwork, I began to question if starting to talk to someone again – even without a clear cause in mind – could bring me some relief in time. I now can advocate for therapy from both ends of the spectrum.
Moral of the story: just as Dr. Howes asserts in his practice, anyone looking to improve their overall quality of life can benefit from therapy.
- It’s an act of self love
In 2018, Statista reported that nearly half of adults strongly agreed that mental health isn’t taken as seriously as physical health in the United States.
Amid a digital age where YouTube gurus and Instagram influencers are all the rage, I’ve noticed that prominent figures within the fitness industry speak about exercise as a form of self-care: a dedicated hour or so of the day that is spent toward bettering themselves. And in my opinion, they’re totally right! I feel like it goes without saying that physical health is something to prioritize, yet unlike mental health, it doesn’t often come with a stigma.
Realistically speaking, shouldn’t an hour-long therapy session deserve the same praise and priority? If you’re looking to incorporate more “me time” into your schedule, consider answering questions and talking about yourself as a chance to do so.
- You’ll learn things about yourself (that you likely didn’t know before)
If you’re anything like me, you probably believe that you know yourself the best, and therefore are capable of making sound, rational decisions most of the time. After all, I’m the one in control of my thoughts, needs, wants, and many of my experiences, right?
Psychologists suggest that this isn’t entirely true, however. Dr. Simine Vazire addresses this phenomena in a study conducted over a decade ago. Despite humans’ natural tendency to think they know themselves best, she asserts that understanding personality – to its full extent — requires an outside perspective. In fact, research has shown that our own desire to preserve a particular self-image influences, and often clouds, the judgments we make about ourselves.
Licensed therapists and professional counselors can step in to provide that missing perspective. You might be thinking that close friends and family are more capable of filling this role, considering that they likely know you pretty well, too, but I’ve found that there’s a sort of power in confiding with an outside source. Don’t get me wrong — I still think that having an immediate support system at home is invaluable, though therapists are trained to provide a safe space and guide you through even the most difficult of topics.
- There are affordable resources, too
Maybe your mind is set on starting therapy, but you’re unsure of where to begin or if you’ll be able to financially afford it. Rates typically vary depending on location, a therapist’s specialty, and the session length, and even if you’re covered by health insurance, there might be additional copay fees. Don’t sweat it if this stands in your way; it’s possible that you’ll just have to dig a little deeper in your pursuit of treatment.
Luckily, sites like MentalHealth.gov and National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) provide free resources for self-help and answer frequently asked questions about counseling. Mobile apps like Talkspace and BetterHelp also foster conversations about mental health by matching users with therapists willing to meet via online or text communication. Signing up for these subscriptions can be more cost-effective than traditional therapy and have varying weekly rates.
You can also look within your local community for support groups or free mental health clinics. It might be helpful to consult a site like Mental Health America to narrow your search based on location and the services you desire to take part in. In addition to these resources the National Suicide Prevention Hotline uplifts individuals with more pressing cases and thoughts of suicide.
- Mental health is becoming less and less stigmatized in society
I haven’t always been so open about my mental health journey. In the past, I’ve vaguely referred to my therapist as just another one of my primary care doctors, and have used the broad term “appointment” in place of explaining that I was off to attend a therapy session. Years ago when I first received treatment, no one seemed to talk about mental health at all.
Even as I’ve gotten older and increasingly confident about seeing a therapist weekly, I still notice subtle reactions among my peers anytime I mention it. Whether it’s a change in the tone of their voice or a half-smile in some act of pity, I totally sympathize with you if the fear of others’ judgements is what holds you back from taking the plunge.
On the other hand, there’s no better time than now to contribute to the conversation on mental health, test the process out for yourself, and become an even stronger advocate for prioritizing therapy. I’ve noticed that social media platforms have become a space for raising awareness for mental health and disorders, which has become a really powerful and beautiful thing.
Being vulnerable can be an uncomfortable thing to do. In some cases, your life might seem as if it’s getting a whole lot messier once you begin to peel back the layers. With patience and consistency, though, you might just be surprised that you’re able to reflect on how much you’ve grown and personally transformed since starting therapy. My mentality? You’ll never know unless you at least give it a try.